Guidelines for the Administration of the AUMSA Travel Fund 

(Revised: March 2018)

Background: The Dean of the faculty of Medical and Health Sciences has set aside $8,000 per year in a fund to be used for travel by medical students. In 2006, guidelines for the administration of this fund were developed by AUMSA. These were updated in early 2013 and early 2018.

Aim of the Fund: To advocate for the University of Auckland Medical students at appropriate national and international fora, and raise the profile of AUMSA and the University.

The fund focuses on representation rather than research, as it is AUMSA’s view that research can and should be funded by other means, whereas there is no other source of travel funding for education, advocacy and representation purposes.

The level of funding is only meant to assist students to travel to the events, it will not be sufficient to completely cover the cost of the event.

All allocated funding is subject to change depending on demand and at the discretion of the faculty and the AUMSA Travel Fund committee, not exceeding the available amounts.

Application Procedures:

  1. Students access information about the Travel Fund on the AUMSA website ( ) and download the relevant application form: either the Student Representation Form or the Research Presentation Form
  2. Applications for funding should be made as early as possible, as applications received post travel will be given lower priority for consideration of award.
  3. As of 2013, applicants who wish to attend overseas fora must also complete the University of Auckland Faculty Of Medical and Health Sciences’ Online Travel Registry prior to overseas travel and application of the Travel Fund, in accordance with the University of Auckland’s “Travel Policy for Students undertaking University Activities Abroad”.
  4. The completed application form and supporting documentation are sent to the AUMSA Secretary.
  5. There will be four funding rounds per year. Deadlines will be at 5pm on Friday at the end of the third week of the first semester, and 5pm on Friday at the end of second week of each proceeding half semester. At the end of the following week, a Funding Meeting will be held. Attending this meeting will be the AUMSA Secretary, AUMSA Treasurer, and a member of the MPD. If the Secretary or Treasurer wishes to apply for funding, the AUMSA President or Vice-President will take their place.
  6. Those at the Funding Meeting discuss the applications and award funding based on the criteria. The decisions made at these meetings are final; no correspondence will be entered into.
  7. All applicants are notified by the AUMSA Secretary of the outcome of their application, and successful applicants are directed to the MPD to receive the money. The funding must be claimed within two weeks following the event, or acceptance of application (whichever falls on a later date). The successful applicant must thank the University, FMHS, and AUMSA for their support in their presentation or report.
  8. After the event, a report of the funded event must be written to be displayed on the AUMSA website. This report, along with all relevant receipts, must be submitted to the MPD as part of the claims process. Further information on this process will be provided in the event of a successful application.

Dates for 2020

If at all possible, please submit an application for funding prior to the fora you wish to attend. Applicants will be notified of the status of their applications after the Travel Fund round closing dates below. Applications accepted after applicants have attended fora he/she wishes to receive funding for will be given lower priority.

Round One: 13th of March – 27th of March

Round Two: 15th of May – 29th of May

Round Three: 24nd of July – 7th of August

Round Four: 25rd of September – 9th of October


– Grants made to applicants are subject to the discretion of the committee

Funding Structure:

Funding will be awarded under two categories;

  1. Student Representation
  2. Student Research

Student Representation. It is anticipated that this category will allow funding to be granted to students wishing to travel to national and international representation events; and it is anticipated that such a trip would serve to benefit other students and the faculty. Applicants at each round will be ranked and receive funding based on the following criteria:

The criteria are (in order of importance):

  1. Level of representation of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and AUMSA
  2. Nature of representation (location, size, attendance of the event, etc.)
  3. The applicants’ relevant past experiences (e.g. representation experience, current roles).
  4. The applicants’ plans for the future – what they hope to achieve with the experience gained at the event and nature/magnitude of the personal development offered
  5. Amount of funding received from other sources

These will be outlined by the applicant on the application form.

Some conferences which have received funding in the past:

  • ANZAPHE Conference
  • National Leadership Development Seminar
  • AMSA Global Health Conference
  • NZMSA Conference
  • Aotearoa Rural Health Apprentices

Student Research Presentation.
Students will apply for funding to present their own original research at a conference or similar event. Applicants at each round will be ranked and receive funding based on the following criteria:

The criteria are (in order of importance):

  1. Nature of presentation (speaking, poster, etc.)
  2. Nature of conference (size, attendance, etc.)
  3. Students’ Curriculum Vitae.
  4. Nature of journal publications (quality, readership, relevance, etc.)
  5. Students’ position among the named authors for journal publications.
  6. Amount of funding received from other sources

These will be outlined by the applicant on the application form.

AUMSA Travel Reports

Chloe Bangs – 12th Congress of the World Federation of Nuclear Medicine and Biology 2018

As part of my 2017 selective in Obstetric Medicine in at National Women’s Hospital, I had the opportunity to design and carry out a study in conjunction with the Auckland City Hospital Nuclear Medicine department. This aimed to establish whether perfusion only scintigraphy is an appropriate imaging technique to diagnose pulmonary embolism in pregnant women. In doing this we aimed to reduce radiation to the breast and fetus rather than using conventional CT pulmonary angiography.

The abstract was accepted for presentation at the 12th Congress of the World Federation of Nuclear Medicine and Biology (WFNMB) in Melbourne, Australia, April 20-25th 2018. I was fortunate enough to present my research at a national conference in 2017 for 150 people and was pleased to be asked by my supervisors to present at an even larger conference. The WFNMB is only held every 4 years, and hosts clinicians, scientists and researchers on an international scale. I had never attended a conference overseas, so it was a very exciting opportunity. It was not without challenge, however, as through an unfortunate communication error I was initially informed it would be an oral presentation rather than a poster. Having previously done an oral presentation on the topic, I was well prepared for this, but to my surprise I was informed 20 days before the conference it would actually be a poster. This challenged me to create and finalise a poster in a very short amount of time, which was thankfully successful with the help of my supervisors and the clinical photography department at Auckland City Hospital.

Following this challenging experience, I was relieved to arrive in Melbourne on the 20th April to lovely weather and all that Melbourne has to offer. The conference was held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, which is located right on the waterfront at Southbank. It was a very new, large venue, and was almost intimidating at first. Having such a central location was a great experience, as it meant I could stay in the city and appreciate what living in Melbourne is like while freely attending the conference presentations.

I started off the conference by attending a student mixer organised by AINSE (Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering), who have a partnership with the University of Auckland. This was a fun event which allowed me to network with students from other parts of the world. It was a great experience meeting other like-minded people and learning about their research, as well as what medicine is like for them back at home. Furthermore, I learnt about the opportunities and scholarships on offer through AINSE for those interested in Nuclear Medicine. I was surprised to be the most junior student there – most were specialist trainees – which really demonstrated what a unique opportunity this conference was so early in my career.

On the 23rd of April, I presented my poster. This was a new experience, and I enjoyed being able to represent the University of Auckland and AUMSA on an international scale. The poster was very well received, and generated a lot of discussion amongst the other conference delegates. I also did an impromptu presentation of my research to the conference committee, and was able to successfully field some challenging questions. My personal addition of addressing the inaccuracy of D-dimer use in our sample was also of particular interest, as pregnancy-specific D-dimers are still of unknown significance in diagnosing PE in these women.

Although many of the sessions were beyond the understanding of a 6th year student, I enjoyed attending lectures by such knowledgeable clinicians and academics. I particularly enjoyed the plenary session on dementia, where I learnt about the role of nuclear medicine in the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, as well as how to differentiate between the different types of dementia. Another session of interest discussed the role of nuclear imaging in the diagnosis of cardiomyopathy, which demonstrates the broad range of conditions this specialty addresses. Much of nuclear medicine is cutting-edge, and the specialty is demonstrating new, innovative options in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers. I came away from this conference with invaluable new knowledge and experiences, and am grateful to be offered such a unique opportunity.

I would like to thank AUMSA, the Travel Fund and AINSE for making this incredible experience possible.

Ry Tweedie-Cullen – European Society of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (ESCAP) 2017, Geneva, Switzerland

During my elective in Switzerland I was fortunate, with the financial support of AUMSA, to have the chance to attend the Annual 2017 European Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry conference in Geneva—a mere 2 hours train ride from Zürich where I was based. As I was doing my elective in child and adolescent psychiatry at (KJPD) a clinic associated with the university hospital in Zürich I was encouraged to attend, as most of the clinicians were also going and several research projects from the institute were going to be presented. The leading theme of the 2017th edition of ESCAP was ‘transition’—talks explored contemporary issues such as migration and globalisation, and the refugee crisis currently being experienced in Europe with vulnerable children arriving from war zones in Syria, North Africa and elsewhere in the world. The issues around mental health and inequality was brought home when during the keynote presentation New Zealand was highlighted as a wealthy country with some of the worst health outcomes worldwide for children and one of the highest levels of inequality. It’s clear that this is an area that needs to be urgently addressed and the change of government in 2017 gives me hope that NZ will make progress towards no longer being internationally known as a model of how to fail young people.

One of the presentations was about the mobile app ‘Robin’ which is being developed and user-tested at the KJPD where I was based during my elective. This is a smartphone app aimed at children with psychosis, depression and anxiety. It teaches coping skills, provides information about their condition, reminds them when to take their meds, who to contact when they need help, and contains a gratitude diary like Log book. I was also involved in the development of the app, which was already in German, French and Italian, by translating it and its associated documentation into English and doing user testing.  The app forms a component of a treatment programme that was developed at the clinic targeting attenuated psychotic symptoms in adolescents. The treatment is composed of therapy modules which utilise evidence based treatment strategies for adolescents with first episodes of psychosis. This clinical treatment is supplemented by the app Robin which supports patients between sessions. At the start of 2017, the clinic also started a systematic clinical intervention study for testing the efficacy of this combined treatment approach. The target population being 4-18 year olds followed over a 16 week period compared with an active control group (treatment as usual). With the outcomes being measured including comorbid symptoms, functioning, self efficacy, and quality of life. At the conference the app and the trial currently underway was presented and it will be exciting to see what the results of this study show.

Another talk presented by clinicians at the KJPD was around an intervention called KOMPASS which I also had the opportunity to be involved with as several of the KOMPASS sessions that were taking place at the clinic whilst I was there. KOMPASS is an ongoing training course for children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder using a programme developed at the Zürich clinic by several of the psychologists. The course teaches things such as implicit social rules in an explicit way using sequential and progressive step-by-step learning. There are a range of exercises including role play, video-feedback, visualising, structure, observation tasks and work sheets. The course was split into two modules, a beginner’s course followed up by an advanced course. In the beginner’s group (KOMPASS-Basics), topics such as understanding emotions, small-talk and nonverbal communication as well as social understanding are discussed. In the advanced group (KOMPASS-F) more complex interactions and communications are practiced. Over the last few years the clinic has been evaluating the KOMPASS advanced course. At ESCAP the results of the advanced training course as well as a longer term analysis of the beginners course were presented. The results demonstrated, utilising a range of psychological testing methods, a reduction in autistic symptoms and an increase in social competences as a result of both KOMPASS-Basic as KOMPASS-F. Furthermore, 12 month post intervention the effect was maintained and in some areas had become even more pronounced.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to attend ESCAP in Geneva and am thankful for AUMSA’s support. It enabled me to meet and hear from many renowned child and adolescent psychiatrist and psychologists from around the world and was an invaluable learning experience.

Hyun Young Park – New Zealand Society of the Study of Diabetes’ Annual Scientific Meeting

My journey to the New Zealand Society of the Study of Diabetes (NZSSD) began on the 4th of May as I landed in Dunedin. I had been warned by my supervisors, who were already there, to dress warmly, but nonetheless, the icy 3degrees took me by surprise as I stepped out of the airport. This was soon thawed by the generosity of the people down in Dunedin, starting from my shuttle driver who offered to drive all 6 of us in the shuttle directly to wherever we were going, rather than dropping us all off at city central.

A couple months earlier, I had been told that my summer studentship project on the progress of Diabetes in Youth in Auckland had been accepted for an oral presentation at the annual scientific meeting of the NZSSD, and I was thrilled! Growing up with a family history of type 2 diabetes, I have always had an interest in the condition. However, what hooked me into this was the relevance it had on our community, and the increasing prevalence of the disease in youth, correcting me from previously coining T2D as being an ‘adult’ disease. I was excited to not only present our group’s work over the summer break, but to also see what a professional conference entailed, speak to different professionals with different roles in the management of the disease (the conference was open to endocrinologists, nurses, dieticians and more) and how it was run.

I had been preparing for the presentation for weeks, and when the day finally arrived, I was welcomed with my delegates pack waiting for me at the front lobby. We went straight into it the next morning with a keynote speaker from Australia, followed by a cluster of presentations from around the country, including my own. I nervously wandered up to the stage once the speaker, prior to my presentation, made her concluding remarks.

The 10 minute presentation zoomed past, and even the 2 minute question time was without issues. I had been speaking about the issue of diabetes (specifically type 2) in youth, and my aim was to highlight the need for us to look into the increasing prevalence in more depth and see if we could do anything to manage it better.

The feedback was great! Multiple professionals approached me after my presentation to discuss their own projects around the same matter, and I was able to gain more insight into the state of the condition on a national level. I was even fortunate enough to come out with an award in my hands for the best student oral presentation. I also had a chance to wander around and read the multiple research posters, and learn about new medication, insulin pumps and treatment plans coming into the market.

Unfortunately, I only attended the conference for one day, Friday May 5th, trying to limit the amount of work I would be missing out on in university. However, I soon came to regret that decision, and found myself wishing I had been there for longer. Despite being a conference based solely on Diabetes, the variety of the talks and presentations during the conference astounded me. We had presentations ranging from the prevalence of youth with diabetes, to possibly surgical interventions with rare histological specimens given from India, to mobile apps patients can use for dietary purposes.

Although brief, that weekend provided an enriching experience that I will hold close to my heart for the remainder of my career. Not only did I get the chance to work with an incredible team at the Greenlane Clinical Centre, and learn more about diabetes, I also got an insight into what research was like as a health professional. As a preclinical student, I have always struggled with applying the skills and information we learn in class to real life situations. However, this whole summer studentship research project has helped me gain insight into the relevance behind what we were learning, and this conference helped me in realizing the implications our efforts as health professionals have on a larger scale. I would like to sincerely thank AUMSA for assisting me in attending such a valuable event, and for making this a reality for me.

Logan Williams – Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand Annual Congress: 2nd – 5th April 2017

In 2016, I undertook my BMedSc(Hons) in neonatology, looking at intermittent hypoxaemia in babies born 34 – 36 weeks’ gestational age (classified as late preterm), and comparing them to babies born at term. This was a pilot project, and the ultimate research goal of our research team is to develop interventions for late preterm babies during the neonatal period that improve their long-term outcomes. My BMedSc(Hons) project was far more demanding than my supervisor or I had anticipated, but in the end we found the results we wanted (along with some unexpected results!) The year I spent conducting research was extremely rewarding and I feel that I gained a lot of insight into the intricacies of clinical research, and the work involved to acquire the information used to treat patients.

One benefit of this intercalated research year was being given the opportunity to present my results at an international conferenceOn numerous occasions, I’d been told that the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ) Annual congress is one of the largest perinatal conferences in the Southern Hemisphere. When I was given the go-ahead to attend the PSANZ Annual congress in Canberra, someone said to me “I’m sorry that the conference is in Canberra, and not somewhere more likeable!” I was a little disheartened, but remained optimistic, for this was the first scientific conference I was going to attend.  I felt both privileged and nervous about the prospect. This is was an amazing opportunity to begin a career in research, and on the other hand, I felt the pressure to present well and make the most of it. (About a month out from the conference, someone pulled out from their mixed oral-poster presentations, and I was asked to present in their place.) Even after numerous drafts of my poster, and going through practice runs of my presentation, I still didn’t feel prepared.

Once the conference had begun, I was in awe of so many of the attendees. I’d read some of the work published by professors such as Lex Doyle (University of Melbourne), William Tarnow-Mordi (University of Sydney) and Rosemary Horne (Monash University) for my BMedSc(Hons), and now I was seeing them in the flesh! We at The University of Auckland held our own though; world experts such as Jane Harding, Caroline Crowther and Chris McKinlay were involved in plenty of poster sessions and presentations. There were also a surprising number of medical students who had completed similar Honours degrees during their medical degree; for some, it was a compulsory part of their training. Their projects were so varied, with one standout project that looked at reducing pain levels experienced during heel pricks by using magnetic non-invasive acupuncture! I presented my results on Tuesday 4th April in front of approximately 30 academics and clinicians who had come along to hear about research into Neonatal Care. The presentation flew by, and I wondered why I had put so much pressure on myself beforehand. That evening was the poster session where I would again present my results; the session coincided with free drinks, so the pressure was off and I could focus on just talking with people.

The main event was the Conference Gala dinner held later that night. most the Auckland academics and clinicians were already going, and I didn’t want to miss out! Fortuitously, some of the other Auckland students and myself got tickets at the last minute. The gala was held at the New Parliament House with a “Frocking up” dress code for a “Not quite politically correct” theme. Seeing academics and clinicians so relaxed was interesting to say the least, but it was a welcome change! Overall, the night was fantastic, but the comedy was very questionable (after the conference, an apology was sent out by the PSANZ President to all those offended by it).

As the conference came to a close, I was relieved that I had made it through unscathed, and inspired by the attendees and the work that is being done to improve the care of mothers and their babies. I would highly recommend all medical students to get involved in research in some shape or form, whether through a studentship or a BMedSc(Hons) programme. It opens up a plethora of opportunities if you make the most of it.  

Attending the conference was an experience that I will never forget. I would like to thank AUMSA, as it wouldn’t have been possible to attend without the financial support I received from them.

Liam Walsh – Trauma 2017: Bridging the Gap

Touching down in Melbourne, purported as the cultural capital of Australia, I was excited. The Australasian and Canadian Surgical society conference; Trauma 2017: Bridging the Gap, boasted delegates from all over the world, coming to hear prestigious speakers talking about the latest in Trauma Research from across two continents. Staying at the Melbourne YHA I was greeted by two Canadian Medical Student room mates and instantly felt at home as the conversations turned to the trials and trepidations of Trainee Intern year.

The following day I entered the Grand Hyatt Hotel. An incredible venue for a conference, with marble floors and chandeliers glittering from the ceilings. The extraordinary range of topics was amazing and I learnt a lot about reducing CTs given to children, domestic violence and ethnic disparities in surgical treatment. The speakers came from Auckland City Hospital (such my supervisor) or as far as Toronto and Ontario. Following an eventful morning session it was my turn to speak. I was presenting in a free paper session accompanied by various clinicians, professors and first year house officers. I was the only student in the session. I presented the paper and fielded a lot of difficult questions but overall was received well. My paper was on Quadbike Paediatric Injuries and deaths, which was also a keynote speaker topic. I was approached by the professor who presented his own research at the conference and we talked about the state of Quadbike legislation. He then invited me to dinner with his other research students.

I met extremely interesting people at the conference who shared their passion for surgery and also explained the benefits and drawbacks of training to be a surgeon. I talked with people doing all kinds of amazing things with technology, such as computerising all patient notes. In South Africa in Capetown they have Ipad which can be used to record all patient records, it displays trends, warns when things are deteriorating, notifies for following protocols or drug interactions. It has been extremely useful in improving clinical management of trauma cases.

I have realised that I have a passion for surgical research, talking to like-minded people who love answering the various questions about what works and what doesn’t, constantly curious, constantly questioning. That is the kind of person I want to be.

I would highly recommend this conference to other students interested in Surgery, particularly Trauma surgery. The people that you meet have a genuine passion for surgery and an eagerness to convert you as a student to their path. Melbourne was also an amazing place filled with a vibrant culture that I was lucky enough to explore through wonderful food at quirky restaurants and the art installations in the evenings.  

Von Paolo Geneta – Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference 2015

The 2015 Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference was held in Perth, Western Australia on the 1st-3rd May. It provided me with a unique opportunity to explore and learn about pursuing a surgical career, through the speakers, workshops and research presentations.

Friday night was the careers and networking night where we got an opportunity to talk to doctors from various surgical specialties under the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Saturday was a full academic day of informative and inspiring speakers from all around the world, as well as research presentations from other medical students in Australasia. Some of my favourite speakers of the weekend include:

• Associate Professor Munjed Al Muderis, who shared his extraordinary life story involving escaping the violence in Baghdad, being incarcerated in a refugee camp, and building himself back up to be one of the world’s leading orthopaedic surgeons
• Professor Stephen Honeybul, a neurosurgeon who analysed the question “What is an acceptable quality of life?” and how it relates to when to operate on a patient
• Mr Richard Villar, an orthopaedic surgeon who has worked in disaster relief, sharing fantastic stories and tips if we wanted to become involved in something similar in the future

For a surgical conference, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how diverse and intellectually challenging the talks were – from the motivational and informational, to the questioning of the ethical and professional roles of surgeons, to sharing how various technological advances will aid medical and surgical practice in the future.

My favourite part of the conference was Sunday, held in the Clinical Training and Evaluation Centre at the University of Western Australia. We were allocated to practical skills workshops and we learned various surgical skills and techniques on simulated models, which will come in handy during clinical years and towards the future. In my time, I got to practice suturing, gastroscopy and endoscopy, cricothyrotomy, and orthopaedic internal fixation. I particularly enjoyed the hands-on practical teaching that we do not usually see in pre-clinical years.

It’s easy to get lost in all the lectures and tutorials during pre-clinical years, and I found myself often losing sight of the bigger picture and where I am headed in the future and what I would be doing. I think that the ASSC gave me the opportunity to refresh and see how all the hard work will aid others in the future, and the various challenges to overcome before that. I enjoyed my time in Perth very much, and I would recommend attending the ASSC, even if you’re not sure of your intentions in pursuing a surgical career. The weekend provided an insightful, inspirational and intellectually stimulating conference. I would like to thank AUMSA for aiding me in attending the Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference; I am very grateful for the privilege.

Natasha Ironside – Research; University of Alberta 2013

I arrived in Edmonton in November 2013 told by Grant, who would be picking me up from the airport, that I would need a winter coat. It was snowing outside, there were ice hockey statues at the luggage claim and the stewards had been telling jokes over the loudspeaker in the aeroplane. Canada was living up to its stereotype so far. Little did I know that I would soon be experiencing -40 degree celcius temperatures which can only be described as a numb butt and brain freeze. All part of the experience I guess.

The opportunity to work in a research laboratory at the University of Alberta has been fantastic as I have been allowed to work independently from day one on some fascinating research projects. I am learning the techniques of X-Ray crystallography which is a method for determining protein structure previously used to show the structure of DNA and of the ribosome among other interesting biological molecules. The post-doc fellow and I grow and harvest crystals to be analysed under x-ray. High resolution diffraction gives a picture of the molecule’s electron density which can be used to mathematically solve its structure. Most of the work in the lab is in the area of heart failure proteins, looking at their structure and function. The lab is eventually hoping to develop a prediction model for the genetic development of heart failure in the future.

This coming Monday I will meet with 7 other students from around the world also in this same research program. We will have seminars and research presentations together although my roommate tells me that I need to organise a pub crawl for them as well.

I have had a chance to see other parts of Canada, visiting Revelstoke for some powder skiing over Christmas/New Years. The mountains are beautiful as is all of the snow decorating the city.

Now that my interest has been ignited, I hope to continue my study of x ray crystallography in the future. I thank AUMSA for the opportunity and support to come and learn firsthand about medical science research in Canada. It has been an insightful experience.

Tara Clinick – Samoa Spinal Trust Volunteer 2012

Monica MacRae, Carissa Herbert and I travelled to Samoa in our six week summer holiday to volunteer for the Samoa Spinal Trust. We joined physiotherapist Epenesa Young who had recently founded this organization, and visited patients in the villages who had spinal injuries and were consequently paraplegic or quadriplegic. The Trust started in 2010 when Ben Lei’a, a 20 year old Samoan rugby player became tetraplegic after sustaining a rugby injury. The hospital in Apia had no Orthopaedic ward or even any space so Ben was in a bed in the corridor for months. Manu Samoa player Brian Lima found out about Ben, and as a result the All Blacks became involved in fundraising for Ben to get him the equipment that he required that the hospital could not provide. A fundraising evening raised a lot of money for Ben to set him up for the rest of his life with full-time carers, a new house which was accessible for his new wheelchair, a vehicle, and other gear he needed to make his life easier.It was subsequently recognised that there were many other people with spinal injuries in Samoa who were mostly discharged from hospital without any equipment, advice, or training of family members in how to care for the person. Many did not have adequate wheelchairs or wheelchair access into the home, commodes, or other necessary equipment. Many also had bedsores and other conditions which were easily preventable. Just before we arrived one man had just died because his entire back had become one big infected bedsore from neglect and lack of education in simple bedsore prevention.

We visited a total of about 20 people across both islands of Samoa and spent time with them in their fales, taking a full medical and social history and conducting a needs assessment with the ultimate aim of fundraising to provide basic requirements and make their lives slightly easier. The families of these patients were extremely warm and welcoming to us, and we had a fantastic summer spending time with them, getting to know them, and hearing their stories. They were all inspirational people who really touched us with their generosity and spirit, and we are looking forward for our chance to return.

Ryan Cha – ANZAHPE Conference 2012

ANZAHPE stands for Australian and New Zealand Association for Health Professional Educators. Some of its aims include advancing education, facilitating communication in health professionals, disseminating high quality educational research and offering grants and awards to encourage educators, researchers and students. They hold a conference annually and this year, it was held in Rotorua from Tuesday 26th to Friday 29th June.The 4 themes for the conference 2012 were the following:

  • Hot springs – sharing research, sharing practice
  • Bubbling to the surface – emergent ideas, innovation
  • Stuck in the mud – problems needing solutions
  • Changing the landscape, the next 40 years – forward looking

My presentation was in the form of electronic poster (under the theme of “hot springs”), to share some new findings from my most recent summer studentship on overseas medical student electives, which was done under the supervision of Dr Judith McCool and Associate professor Warwick Bagg.

The research on this topic was carried out because the interest that medical students have in global health has been increasing in recent years and for many students, this is fulfilled as their overseas elective programme in their 6th (Trainee Intern) year. The overseas elective is therefore a unique opportunity to engage health professionals to contribute to the health of populations especially in low and middle-income countries.

Our aims were 1) to identify the key learning outcomes for elective experiences in Low-Middle Income Countries (LMIC) compared to a High Income Country (HIC) and 2) to provide students and medical curriculum planners with insights to guide future learning in global health.

A sample of 20 LMIC and 20 HIC elective reports were randomly selected from a total sample of 271. A general inductive approach was used to analyse the data and to identify emerging themes consistent with the study aims.

Students from two groups had different motivations. For those students who desired to go to LMIC, they wanted to experience “grassroot medicine”, working in limited resources and understand better about socio-economic determinants of health. On the other hand, those students who chose to go to HIC wanted a secure and safe experience in an advanced clinical environment with new technology.

An interesting finding was that the students from both groups had one main, the most important goal and that was to improve their competency as a doctor in the areas of taking medical histories, procedural skills, interpretation of investigation skills, formulating differential diagnoses and developing clinical management plans.

We found that students from LMIC experienced overwhelming life related events such as poverty and death, and much scarcity of resources which often led to them thinking the medical practice carried out was “poor quality.”

In comparison, the students from HIC experienced intensive clinical involvement and received advanced medical, technological education.

We concluded that both of these experiences are valuable and necessary to become competent, resourceful and globally active medical professions and therefore medical student elective experiences should be optimised for better outcome in New Zealand health system.

The implications of our study were the following:

At present our medical school only allows a small proportion of students to go overseas in their 5thyear, as their selective. If we allowed students to go overseas in both 5thand 6th year (i.e. selective and elective), we would have more opportunity to experience both LMIC and HIC health system. When the medical programme is reinvigorated in the near future, this will be improved and about two-thirds of students will be able travel overseas in their 5th year.

Apart from the university website with past elective reports, medical school already provides an information booklet, they require students to have a meeting with a supervisor beforehand, interview after the elective and also a report at the end.

However, these could be enhanced and if the medical school supported us even more it could potentially optimise the elective experiences. They could prepare us with courses, more financial support and appropriate recommendations of destinations.

Pre-elective workshops customised for each country group may also be helpful, especially LMIC. A lot of students believe that when they go to a LMIC, they will be able to offer their skills and knowledge but what they don’t think about is the fact that they could take more things for themselves than what they give, which could potentially disrupt the environment in the hospital.

Therefore to help students prepare better for the overseas elective, the medical schools could incorporate more education on global health from very early on of our medical curriculum. This has already been implanted in many other universities around the world such as Johns Hopkins and Emory University. The reinvigorated programme will include more of global health in our new curriculum and this should be continued to produce more medical graduates with broader understanding of global health and medicine.

Apart from sharing my work, I enjoyed attending other presentations and meeting other health professionals from New Zealand and Australia. I enjoyed in particular the presentations by Phillippa Poole and William Hart about UMAT being a poor predictor compared to academic achievement and future medical student selection, respectively. It was found that UMAT still does not have enough evidence to prove that it is a good predictor for students’ performance in New Zealand medical programmes, in both Auckland and Otago universities. As for the future medical student selection process, it was recognised that the current systems are already “pretty good” but the most important four factors for becoming a good doctor are interpersonal skills, clinical safety, empathy and resilience.

Being at the medical education conference was interesting and informative to say the least. I am very grateful towards AUMSA for supporting me to attend this event and I would like to encourage more students to attend this conference in the future.

Rebecca White– Mental Health Law Conference 2012, Wellington, NZ

This was a highly educative one-day experience which I was so privileged to have at this level of my training. Upon my return many a jealous eye was cast by my colleague consultants who did not surmount the $1495 registration fee barrier. As a student I privately requested a discount and was charged only $187, so I encourage all fellow students to make hay of like opportunities throughout their studenthood.

Inequalities aside, the high level of scholarly acumen from the presenters made for a head-spinning information injection to my hitherto small collection of knowledge. A highlight learning point for me was that medical meanings and legal meanings differ, and when encountering the law as a medical clinician one ought to defer to the legal definitions. This was expatiated by the famous case of Mr H. The Mental Health Tribunal, consisting of a psychiatrist, a lawyer, and a layperson, found Mr H to be no longer ‘mentally disordered’ in clinical terms, so deemed it inappropriate to continue him on compulsory status treatment. A re-hearing by the high court was appealed, and the Court of Appeal found that the piece of law that says ‘Mentally disordered and fit to be released’ implied that if one is not fit to be released then this implies that one is mentally disordered – ‘the second limb [fit to be released] directs the first limb [mentally disordered]’. They used a ‘unitary’ meaning of the word ‘and’ (as opposed to conjunctive or disjunctive). The judge ruled that ‘mentally disordered’ was a legal definition not a clinical definition, and further stipulated that ‘Clinicians should be able to distinguish criminal behaviour from abnormal.’This was just the first presentation. The range of presenters’ professional backgrounds included lawyers (including DHB legal counsel), lecturers, psychiatrists, and a district court judge. It was a richly informative day and I am glad I went. I’d like to thank AUMSA travel fund for sponsoring my attendance.

Qiliang Liu – Universitas21 Undergraduate Research Conference 2012, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan

The 2012 U21 Undergraduate Research Conference, held 1 – 5 July 2012, was an international forum catered for undergraduates and academics across all disciplines to bring to view their most up-to-date inquiries and research. Having been granted the opportunity to attend the U21 URC on behalf of the University of Auckland, the visit to Japan had been an inconceivably amazing experience, in which it not only reassured my pursuit of research as a life-long career, but also added to my academic networks. This report aims to summarise my experiences during this conference – and I shall endeavour to emphasise the highlights that made this opportunity especially rewarding.Taking the theme of “Connecting to the future”, the nature of the conference has perfectly corresponded to my research proposal to revolutionise conventional treatments for patients with degenerative diseases. Having had the opportunity to put forth my current research on the cellular reprogramming technology in providing improved treatment, or even a cure, in the context of patients with type 1 diabetes, it was delightful to be offered feedback and ideas from many like-minded experts and clinicians in the area of regenerative medicine. As much of the opinions offered had been original yet nevertheless constructive, they have thus enriched me with yet more ideas on how my research could be optimised to more efficiently yield meaningful results. Overall, in the five days of conference, I have gained immeasurably from being able to showcase my research in front of like-minded students from 21 research-intensive universities around the world. The opportunity of networking with others at an academic level considerably added to my knowledge and I had also been able to contribute many ideas for related studies, which, taken together, have made this conference a particularly rewarding experience. The chance to meet professionals from the expertise of regenerative medicine and to be updated with cutting-edge information on the cellular reprogramming technology had been the highlight of my experience.

Through this invaluable opportunity, I have been once more inferred the ultimate purpose of research, which, after so many long hours of hard work – would all come down to the ultimate goal of providing for the people, and the world, with a better future. Overall, the way by which the conference underlined my current research proposal has hence shown me the increasing significance of research in the field of medicine, which has further reassured my decision in pursuing research in regenerative medicine as a life-long career. I owe my sincere acknowledgements to the Auckland International Office, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and AUMSA for granting me this outstanding conference opportunity, and indeed for their valuable support and encouragements all the way along.

Matthew Haydock – Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Annual Scientific Congress – Kuala Lumpur 2012

This trip started out with a summer studentship thanks to the support of the University of Auckland. My project was a systematic review of intravenous fluid therapy in acute pancreatitis. I was encouraged to submit the abstract to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Annual Scientific Congress in Kuala Lumpur. It was accepted for presentation as a research paper in the HPB and upper GI program.The theme for the conference was the making of a surgeon. This made for some very interesting plenary sessions covering communication, collaboration, professionalism and teamwork. To be honest I was expecting these to be superficial and not offer any real content. However I was surprised and impressed with the critical approach taken to these sessions. The speakers pointed out the deficiencies in their profession and how they can be addressed, it was encouraging to see a group of professionals critically discussing their behaviour.

There were programs for all surgical specialties. This made it difficult to decide which sessions to go to without having a specialty of my own. Despite this I managed to find some interesting sessions. The content of the conference was aimed at qualified and training surgeons, accordingly at times I felt remarkably uninformed. On the other side of the coin it gave me more context we are taught as medical students. It was always nice when I actually knew what was going on, giving some validation to my time spent at Grafton campus.

While all of the above was great, my purpose of being there was to present. Leading up to my presentation time I was surprised that my nerves were yet to kick in. As I got called up to present I though I had managed to dodge the nervousness and I would be able to deliver my talk confidently just like I had practiced. I stepped up to the microphone, looked up and saw all the people out there that knew so much more than me. I was nervous.

I thought I could share three lessons from my own experience and that of watching others.

  1. Preparation is absolutely essential. When the nerves set in for me I could rely on my preparation. I had no notes to fumble through as I knew what I had to say and I knew what was on my slides. The talks that were poorly prepared really stood out, they read off their notes, made mistakes and the message of what they had to say was lost. Thankfully this was not me, as it did not look fun.
  2. Put on a show. Those that are well prepared get their message across, but when this message is delivered in the same way be every presenter you forget the message (and the presenter) as soon as you walk out of the room. The ones you do remember are the ones that deliver their message very poorly or very well. Aim for the latter.
  3. Anticipate your questions. I don’t propose that you should have all the answers but try to consider the questions you might be asked. This will save the awkward moment of being called out when you have tried to fluff your way through a question that you were entirely unprepared for. Remember if you don’t know it is okay to say so. I think the most painful thing I saw all week was people getting grilled for poor answering of questions.

In the end, despite my nerves, I was happy with my talk and I look forward to any opportunity to do it again. I learnt a lot from the experience and would like to thank those who have contributed. Firstly to the University of Auckland, I think the University of Auckland summer studentship program is a great initiative. I think that clinicians need to be involved with (or at least aware of) how new knowledge is created and early exposure to research is a fantastic way to nurture this. Secondly thank you to AUMSA and the AUMSA travel fund. Supporting students to attend and present at scientific meetings can only encourage participation in research. Finally and importantly, I would like to thank my supervisors and co-authors with a special mention to Professor John Windsor and Mr Anubhav Mittal. Their advice and mentoring has meant I have learnt a huge amount and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Carissa Herbert – AMSA Convention 2012

I’ll admit it – a lot of my colleagues questioned whether AMSA convention is worth the money. ‘Three thousand dollars!? Carissa – that is ridiculous! You are a starving student!’ My reply in future will be to simply run them through a day at AMSA Convention 2012.The academic sessions start at 9am, featuring a wide range of fantastic, inspiring and insightful experts in their own field – medical or otherwise. Highlights included Michael Malthouse, the most successful AFL coach in Australia, Simon O’Connor of the medical student bible ‘Talley and O’Connor’, Professor John Murtagh of ‘Murtagh’s General Practice and former Australian Prime Minister the Honorable Kevin Rudd. The break-out sessions were just as useful – the most memorable being a practical session with Dr. Sally Cockburn about the potential issues around counselling patients in abusive relationships and keeping your own relationships healthy while having a career in medicine.

The academic sessions also involve a debating and research component where students are welcome to sit in and watch the best public speakers in the country debate a wide range of controversial topics from ‘whether stereotypes are useful in medicine’ to ‘whether people with a BMI over 30 should be taxed’. The research sessions are a great opportunity to sit down and listen to the fantastic work that our colleagues in Australia are doing across the country.

Add to this practical clinical sessions, issue and advocacy panel discussions and the social events and you have a rousing week that if nothing else reminds you why you love medicine.

The AMSA Convention 2012, held in Perth, was by far the best student run event I have ever had the privilege of attending. One thousand students, one week, over a million dollars in budget – I will be surprised if I am ever involved in such an inspirational, thought provoking and entertaining conference again. Thank you sincerely for assisting my attendance.

Tara Clinick – NZMSA Conference 2012: Catalyst for Change

The NZMSA Conference 2012: Catalyst for Change was held in Rotorua on the 18-20th of May. It was an excellent and successful weekend full of inspiring speakers, entertainment, and social activities. It began with an aMASing race (sponsored by MAS) which was held at Rotorua’s famous Agrodome. Teams of about ten people, a mixture of medical students from all around New Zealand, Australia, and a few from further abroad, were put together to tackle a total of twelve teamwork-orientated challenges. These included finding keys in a haystack and towing a tractor, jet boating, finding our way through a maze, the Swoop, Freefall extreme, and other action packed, adrenaline pumping challenges. This took several hours and was rather fitness intensive!After completing the race, we went back to our accommodation, the Sudima Hotel, to get ready for a Cocktail night. We took the gondola up through the Redwoods Forest, and had the option of lugeing down to the venue, Skyline Rotorua. There was champagne on arrival, and a wonderful evening was had by all.

On Saturday morning, the conference sessions began after the opening Powhiri. Delegates were addressed by Professor John Fraser and Dr Lyndy Matthews. After morning tea, breakout sessions began where individuals had indicated their preference ahead of the conference from an option of six different speakers. I attended an inspiring talk given by Dr Robin Youngson about putting hearts back into health care, a talk focussed on life and wellbeing by Dr Mangala Wettasinghe, and Dr Barbara Hochstein talking about founding the Aratika trust. Further keynote speakers were Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, and Dr Leo Celi. Overall the day was extremely successful and interesting, with a wide range of thought-provoking topics being spoken about.

On Saturday night was the Southern Cross formal dinner held at the Blue Baths in the Government Gardens. It was an impeccable dinner with an address from Dr Ian McPherson and presentation of NZMSA awards.

Further breakout sessions began on Sunday morning focussed on health equity, clinical leadership, medicine and humanities, taking action, clinical skills and life and wellbeing. I attended a though-provoking talk given by Genevieve Bois, a member of the International Federation of Medical Students Association about overseas electives. In the afternoon I attended an enjoyable advanced suturing workshop. After closing addresses were finished, it was time to pack up and leave Rotorua after an amazing weekend. It was a pleasure to represent The University of Auckland at this event and meet so many incredible students from other medical schools.

Karen Chiu – NZMSA Conference 2012: Catalyst for Change

The NZMSA Conference 2012: Catalyst for Change started off with an afternoon of physical activities at Agrodome, Rotorua. The delegates bonded over team-building activities such as sheep-herding, fence-building, and navigating through a fitness course which included military-crawling through poo-laden fields, navigating an injured officer on a stretcher around obstacle cones, and push-ups! Then with a brief moment to catch our breaths and freshen up, a Skyline Gondola ride and scenic luge track later, we were wined and dined at the welcoming cocktail function in the Redwood Forest. It was an evening of great music and mix-and-migling with other delegates. The next morning, with weak and sore thighs, the conference officially opened with two days filled with inspiring sessions. The talks challenged us to contemplate a doctor’s role as a leader and a team-player; our role in bringing about change in the health workforce. Other highlights of the conference include the conference dinner at the Blue Baths in the Government Gardens, followed by an excursion into town to party it up at the local hotspot Lava Bar. I would like to thank AUMSA for its support through the Travel Fund, helping to offset some of the expenses for a poor 5th year medical student.

Camelia Soo – NZMSA Conference 2012: Catalyst for Change

The year was 2009 when I attended my first NZMSA Conference, then held in the now quake- city Christchurch. Being an eager second year, the opportunity to attend an event where all experiences were new was thrilling and exciting. Fast forward to fifth year where I am right now. When the NZMSA 2012 Conference application opened, I felt it was more a duty to apply for a spot. Being the Deputy Editor for NZMSJ, I had the responsibility of promoting NZMSJ at the Conference and scouring for new article ideas and thought my experiences was limited to business only. How wrong I was for not only was it journal business but it was a great weekend of inspiration, fun and social networking.Activities were held for us almost as soon as the delegates step foot onto Rotorua soil. We started the Conference fun with an AMASing race, held at the Agrodome. Delegates were divided into groups of 8-10 and ran, crawled, sweated through hills, muds, mazes, chased and herded sheep and took part in several adrenaline pumping rides before heading to Skyline Rotorua for a panaromic gondola ride (after a good shower of course!). It was then a luge ride down to the Cocktail venue, a cozy white marquee in the middle of a Redwood forest where delegates were welcomed officially.

The first day of the Conference consisted of several keynote speeches and breakout sessions. Students were reminded why it was essential to be catalyst for change to lead the future medical workforce. One of the breakout sessions I attended was by Dr. Robin Youngson, an anaesthetist at Auckland Hospital. His was a powerful session that reminded us of how compassion and genuine care for patients can have a deep impact on patients’ life and recovery. Furthermore, he maintained that having emotional connectedness with patients is not as harmful as some think it is. The second day of the Conference saw delegates having more inspiring breakout sessions and also the opportunity to revise suturing skills. I had the opportunity to attend Genevieve Bois’s breakout session, entitled ‘Are good intentions enough?’. She touched on the very relevant issue of medical students seeking experiences in low resource areas and prompted us to think of the reasons why so many students were interested in experiences in developing countries: was it really to help? Or merely just to be cool?

The talks were inspiring and stimulating and there was a lot of opportunity to mix and mingle with students from the University of Otago, Australia and Fiji! We were treated to a very luxurious dinner at Rotorua’s Blue Baths and it party at Lava bar after that!

I would like to extend my warmest gratitude to the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and especially AUMSA for providing me with the travel fund that contributed to my registration fee.

Abhinav Jain – ANZAHPE Conference 2011

I recently had the opportunity to present a paper concerned on the topic as to why female medical students are reluctant to adopt a general surgical career. The issue gains greater attention when half of the medical school recruitment pool remains unrepresented for a career in general surgery. This has a wide impact on the future health care needs of the community.It was appropriate to put forth my views at the ANZAHPE Conference 2011 in Alice Springs, Australia. The conference provided a good platform for discussion regarding socially accountable health professional education. The need of the hour is to select, train and retain the best possible talent for a general surgical career as there is a dire need for general surgeons to meet the healthcare needs of the ageing population. I argued the causes and made some suggestions as to how female medical students can be persuaded to adopt a general surgical career. It is an accepted fact that women constitute about 50% or even more of the recruitment pool of medical school graduates and hence career choices has a large impact on recruitment into general surgery. The emphasis throughout the discussion centred on how this surgical faculty which has traditionally been male dominated can be made more attractive to female medical students to meet future healthcare needs of the community.

Though I attended only one day of the conference, but I gained immensely from being able to present my research paper in front of distinguished health professional educators from across Australia, New Zealand and abroad. I also had the opportunity to attend other presentations by excellent health researchers and educators. It considerably added to my knowledge and I was able to imbibe some original ideas on various topics. The presentations were mostly focused around the themes of Indigenous health, Cultural Safety, Global Connections, Environment and Health, Ethics and Education etc. The conference provided a good opportunity for networking aiming at exchange of views for future research.

I would like to express my gratitude to University of Auckland-Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and AUMSA for their valuable support and encouragement.

Karen Dentener -Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand 15th Annual Congress 2011

I recently attended the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand 15th Annual Congress in Hobart, Australia (famous for its convict history and not much else) with the support of an AUMSA Travel Grant. The conference focussed on the latest innovation and research in neonatal and obstetric care. I presented research I had undertaken during my 5th year selective in the N.I.C.U on brain monitoring and the prediction of neurodevelopmental outcomes at 4 years of age in extremely preterm infants. This was really nerve wracking as several world renowned doctors were in the audience with tricky questions, but a great experience which reinforced my interest in research and the field. Unfortunately it was cold and rainy nearly the entire week of the conference but I managed to go to the famous Salamanca market and art gallery and sample some fine Tasmanian wine. Thanks to AUMSA for their support, allowing me to have this amazing opportunity!